If people think imposing more controls on social media will change the fortunes of Big Traditional Corporate News Media, they’ll likely be in for a shock. The truth about “journalism” is that it is a profession that relies on a rather primitive aspect of the human condition — emotionalism. “Journalists” are in constant search of a story to tell. By their very nature, stories are designed to appeal to an old quirk of human cognition that favours a linear episodal revealing of information which is how a story is structured — it has a beginning and an end and, between these two points, a rising action phase peaking at a climax then a falling action leading to resolution.
Because “journalism” relies on stories to structure the information it delivers, it will never be up to the task of being a conduit for factual information. Factual information presented in non-linear structures like tables, matrices, and multi-variable logical constructs are boring. This is the reason facts never fly as news stories and, therefore, hardly ever make front page headlines in newspapers and why dictionaries, almanacs, and phone directories are not read from cover-to-cover.
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In short, we should all disabuse ourselves of the notion that “journalism” will save humanity from the “fake news” and “disinformation” that leaders of that profession insist proliferate on the Net and turn people into sheep and zombies. This does not mean that “fake news” and “disinformation” are not problems. They are and they are serious ones. However, “journalism” is not the “weapon” it is made out to be that can combat “fake news” and “disinformation”.
In the important fight we face against disinformation, “journalism” is a dull weapon. To become savvier at consuming and vetting information, we need to get on top of our bias towards stories. Stories are a cognitive relic we inherited from our ancestors whose historical and cultural traditions are stored in various story structures — epics, legends, and religious scripture, to name a few. “Journalism”, therefore, does not contribute to this much-needed cognitive leap because, for all intents and purposes, it is part of the problem its practioners presume to solve.
Consider this. The headline “Plane Crash kills 250” is a story that sends chills up frequent fliers’ spines and actually prompts many to think twice about their next overseas holiday. But the fact that your chances of being killed in a plane crash over a lifetime of flying is far smaller than the probability of you being run over while crossing a street elicits far less of such an emotional response and, often, does not change one’s perception of flying. On one hand, we don’t think much about taking unecessary risks on our streets everyday — jaywalking, trying to beat a red light, tailgating, counterflowing, etc. — but, on the other, raise a shrill howl at the slightest perception that even the smallest of safety procedures are not observed on a flight. That’s all because stories about plane crashes make headline news and movie plots whereas the dramas of driving and crossing streets don’t sell papers and movie tickets.
“Journalism” fills the gap between working at getting hold of reliable facts and our predisposition to sitting wide-eyed while an “elder” spoonfeeds us our daily-dose of knowledge delivered via stories. It’s a comfy service that puts the ability to poison minds at a massive scale in the hands of a tiny elite community of oligarchs. That obvious fact about the “journalism” profession and the “news” media industry that employs these professionals seems to escape the mind of most people.
Journalists may be made out to be some sort of hero or messiah under the current thinking. The “fight” against “disinformation” provides a good narrative to enforce that flawed notion about “journalists”. People need to step up and put in a bit more brain work into piecing together their own frame of thinking and not rely on the mere stories that they are told. The “journalism” profession and the news media industry make their money from telling people stories. We had, for so long, willingly submitted to the monopoly “journalists” and news media businesses hold on story telling. It is high time we broke that monopoly and, more importantly, get over our dependence on stories and narratives as our primary source of information.
Journalism still has its place — as a form of entertainment. But we are now in an era where reliable information is available and can be obtained independently with a bit of work and a bit more robust thinking.
benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.
4 Replies to “Why “journalism” will NEVER be the right channel for delivering reliable FACTS”
People forget that media corporations are still businesses. And like any business, the things they put on display front and center are the ones that they want you to buy. Because those are the ones that sell and not necessarily because they are what the masses need.
Welcome to the 21st century CE where the bloggers & social media are now the kings of news & information while those journalists & traditional/mainstream media are slowly becoming obsolete that’s because unlike those journalists & traditional/mainstream media, the bloggers & social media reporters* [aka journalists on steroids] are very intelligent & radical to make their information to the public. And thanks to the internet & social media, the access to information there are very transparent, more freedom & the public could easily give their reactions/replies/opinions to the bloggers & social media reporters or interacts between the public & bloggers/social media reporters than the traditional/mainstream one. Now had you ever tried to contact a TV/radio/newspaper reporter to ask on how he/she’d created his/her own news report & give a copy of it so that you could investigate his/her story before? I think not & that’s the weakness of the mainstream/traditional media but there are some bloggers/social media reporters who’d either refused their reply/reactions to their reports (and I say “reports” not “news”) to the public but that was a minor incident unlike on the other side of the media industry which is the mainstream media. That’s what really happens to both mainstream & social media right now, and I’d watched this one Youtube video that I caught on the attention regarding to this blog that @benign0 had posted here on GRP. This Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Judith Miller tells that the mainstream media are slowly on the decline as the new frontier of news reporting, the social media, are becoming more popular & more closer to the public and her video are very factual & reasonable: https://youtu.be/4B0HV_GQut4
* – I say, social media REPORTERS & not INFLUENCERS because these 2 words are contradict to each other. One word is very professional & the other is just an entertainment purpose.
For the past 30 years of Aquino era; the mainstream media became the Propaganda Machine of the Aquino Cojuangco political axis. Journalists of the mainstream media became paid tools of the Aquinos, to promote their political agendas; their heroism; their sainthood; etc…
So, Fake News; biased opinions of so called: opinion givers were all oriented to glorifying , EDSA, the Aquinos, their heroism and their sainthood.
The Information Technology came; along with social media, bloggers, Facebook and Twitter people. Some of the social media people and the bloggers, are more educated and more intelligent than the so called : Journalists, who were paid hacks of the Aquino Cojuanco political axis propaganda machine…
So, the EDSA fake narratives; the sainthood and heroism myths were exposed as False, and as indoctrination tools, to dumb us all down; so as we become “indoctrinated robots”
We have now a more “democratic” source of information. Where anyone, who have some “guts to write”, can contribute their “two pesos worth of news and opinions” on the internet and the social media. It is the reader who decide, if the news is true, or the opinion is not biased… It enables/requires, all of us to Think, and not just accept what are being portrayed on the news media…the mainstream media, especially…
Journalism is now becoming an obsolete profession. They destroyed themselves, by becoming paid political tools and political hacks , to promote politicians’ political agendas !
Have high standards, follow the “Verify but trust” routine at digging up sources and facts, and stop playing double standards, been seeing in the last few years that so-called independent journalists can be as drama-centered and ego-centric as their mainstream counterparts, and they can be as vindictive and petty as the recent article here about social media catfights.